By Sara Rose
A little under a year ago, I was watching Inception with my husband and daughter. Strangely enough, Owen had already gone to sleep and I have no idea why, he never goes to bed early willingly!!!! Moving on. This story has two parts. We get to the part where Dom is telling Ariadne the truth about Mal’s suicide and, as we watch, Mal jumps. Eva notices, for the first time, that during movies with suicides, particularly a jump or a hanging and alcohol, I always turn my face.
I have a strong stomach and heart but there’s only so much I can take. She noticed and asked, quite bluntly (ever my daughter), “Do you look away because of your father?” Me, “Yes, Eva. I almost always do.” She patted my hand and snuggled up to me. I moved on from it but we decided to put it on as background noise yesterday while we got some stuff done.
This morning, as I was doing Eva’s hair she seemed more pensive than usual. I asked why. ”I was thinking about Mal, leaving her daughter and son…. Like your dad left you and grandma.” “Why, sweetie?” “You must have been sad. Or be sad. Or maybe lonely or angry? I know you both have Mr. Fun (my awesome stepdad FYI) but is it the same?”
Do you choose honesty? Do you choose an altered honesty? Or what you tell yourself to keep sadness and anger at bay? I chose a combination. Because Eva will be 8 this year and there are some sadness’ she doesn’t need to know yet. ”By the end, Eva, maybe things were a bit like that movie- Inception.” “Where you build the dream for things to work out in certain ways?” “Yes and it doesn’t always go right, huh?” She shook her head.
Me, “Listen. You never need to worry if I’m sad or angry because I can’t watch a suicide. Someday I will tell you why or you will read it. Maybe, Eva, maybe, he might have loved you and Owen. But would never have been normal or nice. So what you have now, is so much better. Parents who love you. Your biological father. Friends like Tim and Cindy. Your wonderful grandparents on mommy and daddy’s sides. We will all never make you wonder about how much we love you.”
Then she started to recite something and I nearly cried. Verbatim from Inception. “ I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. . . . He is still waiting for that train to take him away, isn’t he? Like Mal.”
Me, “Paradox. He wanted a dream that was never real. Yes. Like Mal.”
I cried when I got home. My son with crazy hair who wants to run wild with the wind and my daughter who is neat and as controlled as I am .. . . . understands so much more than I sometimes want to admit is possible.
Sparkles and Glitter,
I go on about this a lot, but I always figured I’d be a back seat parent. My kids would take the lead with their interests and we’d be trucking them about. We’d be that family where my kids did their own things and we did our own things and we would all revel in each others coolness. It’s partly because I was a really independent kid but also because I really have a strong belief in letting kids define their own identity.
I hesitate to write after tragedies like Sandy Hook or the Boston marathon, adding my voice to the cacophony of others screaming that things have just GOT TO CHANGE. Yes, they do. But maybe not in the way that we all think. Yes, we may need to rethink what goes on with gun control or mental health care in this country, but there is something else we need to rethink that nobody talks about.
How we raise our kids.
My ideas about raising my kids dramatically changed when I was pregnant with Eva. I started really paying attention to the kids I saw around me. I didn’t like what I saw. What I saw was a lack of parental guidance and discipline. Kids who could literally get away with murder. The worst manners imaginable. Complacency and indifference over bullying and an attitude of privilege being an unalienable right, not something earned. Kids as young as my 7-year-old being given $100 allowances, cell phones, the list was endless.
Then I thought, “Why are we so baffled that people do terrible things? Why are we so shocked that nobody can cope with this? We do not raise kids that are actually good people.”
This isn’t meant to be a tirade, because I do actually know some truly terrific parents out there. I also know some great, great kids. But I sat there (on perma bedrest) and realized, I couldn’t simply raise a kid or two. I had to be an active part in cultivating greatness in them and the people they surround themselves with.
This is why I am heavy-handed with enforcing rules, manners, and responsibility. It’s also why I involve myself by working in their classrooms, leading my daughters girl scout troop, and coaching not only her soccer team but others as well. I love these kids and am passionate about them learning to work hard, be good to each other, and accomplishing goals that are bigger than themselves.
I give my kids that I teach plenty of support and praise when they deserve it. But I’m not afraid to let them know when it’s time to work harder. The weird part? KIDS RESPOND TO THIS. POSITIVELY. They work harder, they work together, and the icing on the cake are the small moments when a kid says, “I love hanging out with you.” or “I want you to come back and be my coach again.” or “I learned so much with you. It was so cool!”
The proof is in the pudding. Give kids the tools to being decent human beings and real success. Manners. A can do attitude. Strong work ethic. Confidence and self-esteem. Don’t teach them that they have every right to be entitled. Don’t let them get away with bullying or laziness. Don’t let them think that violence is an ok way to solve a problem they have or make a statement. Encourage them to be educated.
At my team talk I had with my soccer teams last night, I used an example of something my mother said to me when I was just a bit older than Eva. I had a bad week of school. Failed a math test. Had a crummy week of soccer and dance. I didn’t want to do my chores. I whined all through my snack when I was done, my mom looked me dead in the eye and said “Work harder.”
Nothing else. But I got it. It wasn’t okay to fail a test that I hadn’t studied for. Had I practiced for soccer or dance outside of my practices? No. Really, I didn’t want to do my chores so I could lie around and read. So, I got off my butt, did my chores, practiced my stuff, and worked harder. It paid off.
My kids aren’t perfect but they work hard. For that fact alone, I am really proud of them. I hope we start cultivating this in more kids as we continue to address national issues. One day these kids will run this country. Let’s help them out.
Glitter and sparkles,
Glitter and Sparkles,
I seem to be in a holding pattern of needing a soft spot to land and instead being tossed against a sharp edge for another bruise. This is, in many ways, my own fault. Instead of coping and jogging along with life despite the twists and turns, I fell behind and let the tide suck me under. I think this happens too often and what we all need is a soft place to land.
What none of us understand is that we can control our response towards being overwhelmed. We can create our own soft spot to land but we also get stuck in a holding pattern. Life continues to be overwhelming, things hit at you left and right, we don’t feel good, so we not only stay stuck in depression but that place we created to rest and launch ourselves back into the world.
I understand why. We don’t need many reminders that life is cruel. I started this post yesterday and then people who merely wanted to run got blown up in Boston, my migraine continued, we had a bunch of other petty stressors, I mean really? I went to bed of my own volition at 6:30 pm.
I can pin things down to 3 factors. 1. I’m exhausted nearly constantly lately. There are a lot of people I deal with right now that are exhausting, frustrating, etc. I’m usually good at brushing that aside but instead, lately, it consumes too much of my energy. 2. I’m lonely. There is a certain joy I get from writing, running my household, and making sure my family is content and thriving. But I think we can all admit freely that writing from home, working from, being a work at home parent can be exceedingly lonely. I’m a loner by nature but at times that does NOT mean I want to be lonely. 3. I’m frustrated and insecure. Things keep moving in a 2 steps forward, 5 steps back way right now.
Now. I keep telling myself, I have worked too hard for this new life to end up being a failure. We are giving it our all everyday. Still, these same cracks apply to everyone in the house lately. We all need a soft spot to land on. We all need to do better at taking care of each other because that is what a family does.
Then, you have the world being ugly. I hated the idea of Boston happening yesterday. On top of everything, it just felt like life continually being asinine for no reason. Everybody is looking everywhere to point fingers and I want to shout “Let’s just fix this. All of it.” Usually, I refocus during times like these to remember that my cup does overflow with goodness. This week, though? My glass just feels shattered.
I want a different glass. And a nap. I’d love to feel sparkly and glittery again.
Sparkles and Glitter,
So, since I keep enjoying the mid suck of finishing a manuscript, I am utterly devoid of original ideas. Thus I get to keep using up my Scintilla prompts! Write about a time when a preconceived notion or opinion (about a person, place, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?
Real love. As it pertains to your children and whom you marry. I was so very wrong on so many levels on the kind of parent and wife I would end up being. I had a great deal of things wrong, most importantly so, how my decisions and choices would be altered. This isn’t to insult anyone who manages to have the lifestyle I had imagined for myself. It’s just that when push came to shove, I realized my path is cut from a different stream of water.
I had imagined getting married later in my 30′s, if at all, and children then too. This will make anyone who knows me giggle a bit, but I had a crazy, huge, lofty goal. It didn’t include where I am now, certainly not. I had majored for a good deal of time in psychology and political science. I wanted to go to law school and I had good enough grades and LSAT scores to do this. I wanted to work with the UN, NATO, or the FBI possibly in international relations.
Obviously, there are people with families who manage to make these sorts of careers work. But at the back of my mind hummed my writing, and the sort of mother, and wife that I wanted to be, which was AVAILABLE to my family whenever they needed me. These aren’t jobs that afford that luxury. They afforded, in my imagination, a life where you worked hard and played hard. For all the fun that this seemed, for as good as I was in my course work and internships, something felt totally off to me.
When I was pregnant with Eva and facing the idea, at first, of being a single mother….I was very determined to show my child that woman aren’t bound in glass cages. We move forward by strength, determination, and sacrifice. But when I had her, I started to seriously question the trades I would have to make. Gone all the time- to buy her whatever she wanted but never be available and PRESENT for her? Middle of the road- where I was there more but not enough? Stay home and be a constant presence?
Nolan and I married. We’ll talk more about children in a moment. I had some serious boyfriends and some not so serious and some flat-out disasters that I had dated. In a corner of my heart, I had harbored a bit of a seed that planted by both my father and one long term but very unhealthy relationship. ‘NO MAN WOULD WANT TO MARRY YOU. YOU WOULD MAKE THE WORST WIFE IMAGINABLE.” I deliberately hardened myself, instead of making myself into a ‘pleaser’ in my relationships. I was old fashioned, often unavailable and men had to work to understand how to even have a normal relationship with me.
When Nolan and I became an official couple, I let that melt away. I decided an emotionally unavailable marriage wasn’t in the books for me and that truly happy couples, not just merely married couples, consciously put effort into their marriage, each other, and themselves. This also changed my thoughts on parenting pretty tremendously. Add the career path I was on. I wanted full investment into the life I led.
I graduated with both a bachelors and later a masters in psychology if the field ever presented itself as an area of renewed interest to me. I also finished a masters in English because I now work full-time as a writer. I have told the story many times about how Nolan bluntly told me ‘You’re on the wrong path. You need to be writing, it’s what you do best.’
I also work full-time as a mother and a wife. My home is important to me. My family’s welfare is a daily focus. I put everything into these three areas. Looking back, there is no way I would have been happy in a job that demanded upwards of 60 hours a week. Missing out on the time I have and make with the ones I cherish would have been bitter work. I would have grown into a bitter and resentful woman. I feel no less of a feminist because I made these choices my priorities.
So do I get tired, frustrated, and sick of things now? Yup. I’m human. But I try to count my blessings in those moments and remember that I am well-defined as myself as well, not just by the life I lead. Truly, my family just works better with me here for everyone. I get what I need, they get what they need, we have a structure that works for us. There is little chaos but there is plenty of laughter and love. Changing gears was the smartest decision I’ve ever made.
Sparkles and Glitter,
Where have I been? Where am I at? Where am I going? Oh, here I am and I’m thrashing about in my bed and whining that I dropped out of sight again. I overwhelm myself. I’ve been doing it for centuries (ok, decades). I get in over my head and I just stop in my tracks. It usually takes a stupidly massive effort to get back on my feet.
It takes my realizing that, no matter what, my life will be busy and brimming past my comfort zone. Also, this is no reason to shut down, but rather to do a reevaluation of whether my priorities are in check and if everything I am doing is leading to ultimate happiness and satisfaction. I take a large part of my well being and happiness from whether my family is thriving and chugging along merrily. When we aren’t, I try to recognize where and what needs cuts or at least a temporary break.
Simplicity. Tea and a journal. A walk and a song. A hot, comforting meal. Plenty of rest.
The effort to get back on my feet also takes me remembering that I have a truly severe anxiety disorder. I’ve chosen to not let it define me but there are times I have to observe that I may be aggravating it. It is no small feat to go from being unable to walk out your front door and move towards a daily recognition and acceptance of being outside one’s comfort zone. It comes with rewards. When I impact other people in a positive way, help my kids and husband be their best, go for things I may not have thought possible….. I am bringing light into the world. The goal I always strive for.
These thoughts bring me, in a roundabout manner, to a Scintilla prompt we had a while back. (Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.) I fell into the throws of a major anxiety attack that lasted weeks during March. This is when Scintilla started up . . . . and I was fighting insane bronchitis/walking pneumonia. Being sick and having your mental health go crackers is neat. You could barely get me to get out of bed, answer the phone, or do the dishes.
But, life was going to start back up again, this last week. It was time to get my ducks in a row. So I started thinking fondly about the memories of Nolan and I, when love first bit our behinds! (Yes, I totally get that it was a totally random segue, work with me here.) One night, we were cooking with our friend, Jenn. I was making miso soup and getting the slight impression that this boy might sorta like me.
As I was cutting up potatoes and tofu, I asked him to mince some herbs. Please insert a fatalistically stunned face from Nolan. Poor dude, you would think I would have just said, “Oh, I have herpes and gonorrhea- that’s cool, right?” Me, “Are you okay?” Nolan, “What is mincing herbs?
What is mincing herbs?
Wow. Okay, so I gathered at this point that our relationship could become a bit of a project. Then again a good relationship and a good marriage always has points where it truly is a project. For the project to be successful, everyone and everything has to be engaged in creating a delicious result. Obviously at the beginning of our relationship, we needed to start with some basics. Luckily, the soup was delicious. Also luckily, I inspired Nolan to learn the ins and outs of truly cooking- how it’s more than food, it is providing nourishment, sustainability, and a place of comfort for you and your family.
We have been cooking together ever since. The point of this segue is that Nolan had to step out of his comfort zone and accept learning something new and vastly overwhelming to him. He doesn’t back down from the day-to-day challenges and overwhelming factors of our life. He understands that we all need a break
from time to time, to regain strength. Then he keeps going and really, I should look at that attitude more often.
It translates from herbs to life. Growth.
Sparkles and Glitter,
P.S. Our friend Jenn also made us delicious sushi that night. Ah, the cement of marital future. Herbs and raw fish.
Our prompt: Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.
The prompt brought me back to one of my favorite journeys during early college years. My friend Ben and I were in a musical tour for chorus that spanned Austria, Germany, a bit of Switzerland, & too many beautiful places to keep track. It’s so important to travel and see the world. It’s something my parents did for me, something I want to do for my kids, and it is a passion of my dear friend Ben’s.
But that’s not why we’re here. No no!!! We’re here for the story of an insane 19 hour flight. Sitting in the middle of the middle row as we sliced the air over the ocean. I saw 2 sunrises and a glorious sunset. But. The plane was freezing. We were discussing our ‘survival plan’ for the jetlag and reality that we would need to stay awake through our first day in Europe to adjust to the new time zone.
My sorority sister, Sara was sitting on one side of Ben and I, the other. When you are young, do you remember things like ‘Bring amenities in case your plane ride is freezing, the food is terrible, and you need to sleep to survive the coming day’? Nope. You probably brought your entire makeup case and 6 pairs of shoes though! Oh and 3 books, of which you will get one read.
As Sara, Ben, and I sat there and reviled against our plane food, drank 8 dozen mini cans of ginger ale, and froze, we remembered ‘We can ask the attendant for blankets!’ IMAGINE OUR DELIGHT! We thought these would be nice, fleecy, soothing things so we could all drift off into slumber, listening to the lullaby of compressed air and the air plane.
Now, try to understand our confusion, when the flight attendant that came and tossed us a folded piece of dingy, grey-blue, and coarse material then snapped ‘Here’s you blanket.’ Ben and I blinked, (probably Sara did too, but she is never very vocal in situations like this) and Ben finally slowly said, ‘But there’s only ONE here….’ Flight attendant, “That’s the last blanket. Guess you guys will share.”
As she stalked off, we unfolded the blanket and tried to spread a portion of it across the three of us. Ben and I had hoodies on, which we wadded up to use as pillows on his shoulders, so Sara and I had a place to rest our heads. I just now realized that Ben probably felt like a total STUD. Two cute girls asleep on him? What guy wouldn’t feel awesome?
We all grudgingly woke up a few hours later. I kept saying something smelled funny, but Ben and Sara both looked at me peevishly. Until we folded the blanket back up. There it was. Mocking us on the other side. Huge, crunchy in spots, but still damp in others. White and viscous.
SOMEBODY HAD A PARTY ON THAT BLANKET AND FOLDED IT BACK UP.
(insert retching sounds and shrieking)
Our woes that day didn’t end with that blanket. We then had to be awake for hours, go to rehearsals, and . . . . get ourselves around Vienna for dinner and a night of fun. So to speak. That picture above was the fun part!!!! That was before 6 hours of walking through a strange, foreign city, looking for a decent restaurant (Oh, and all the restaurants we ate at were fantastic), trying to understand the streets, the public transit maps, speaking tourist terrible German….. then deciding it’s time to go this really cool park!
In the middle of the night. Where the weather is not balmy. You have no darned clue where you are. Nor how to get back to the hotel. Thus begins the screaming match where ALL the tears, and ALL the drama, and ALL the jet lag, and ALL the wine from dinner explodes into a mighty clusterfuck.
I will say this. The rest of that 3 week journey was pretty awesome, even with that insane 48 hour beginning.
Sparkles and Glitter,